Tony Nominee Colman Domingo Returns to the Stage in Celebration of Writer James Baldwin

Tony Award nominee Colman Domingo will join Bill T. Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks, Stew and more for the Live Arts Festival April 23-27.

Colman Domingo
Colman Domingo

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Colman Domingo continues on his career high, entrenched in double-duty rehearsals for two shows he is excited about: The one-night-only  Guys and Dolls benefit concert at Carnegie Hall April 3 and his upcoming turn as part of the Live Arts Festival celebrating the life, spirit and contributions of the writer James Baldwin. He has a new movie with Richard Gere and Ben Vereen in the works as well.

"It's a little crazy right now," the actor/playwright, who most recently starred in the hit movie "Lee Daniels' The Butler," told Playbill.com. "There's a lot going on."

Fresh off the heels of reprising his Tony-nominated role in London's Young Vic staging of The Scottsboro Boys, Domingo is back in the thick of things with his theatrical work — even if it's for a short spell.

He will join Bill T. Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks, STEW and many others for New York Live Arts' second annual Live Ideas festival: James Baldwin, This Time!, taking place April 23-27. According to a spokesperson for the arts organization, the event will inaugurate "The Year of James Baldwin," a city-wide celebration running through 2015 celebrating the writer. As a playwright, the Harlem native's works The Amen Corner and Blues For Mister Charlie played on Broadway in 1964 and 1965, respectively. But it was his 1953 novel "Go Tell It On A Mountain" that made him well-known.

"I think James Baldwin is truly one of the most prolific writers, thinkers, essayists and playwrights that's a part of the American cannon of writers," Domingo said. "I think the writing community understands, that but I'm not quite sure people understand that as a society.

"He represents many things but this is a man that will go to battle and speak against the most conservative players and tell them who we are as a culture," he added. "I think he was way ahead of his time and the piece we're working on is going to blow people's minds because it's as if he could've been talking about how we are today, when it comes to race and politics and our humanity."

The world premiere of Patricia McGregor's Nothing Personal, starring Domingo, will take place April 23 at 5 PM at New York Live Arts Theater. A second performance will be presented April 24 at 8 PM. Based on the 1964 collaborative photographic book of the same title, with text by James Baldwin and photographs by Richard Avedon, this kind of production marks foreign territory for Domingo. With the cooperation of the Richard Avedon Foundation, images from the book will come to life along with Domingo performing Baldwin's text.

"The essays are really about the explorations of our humanity and about what the America myth is and he's sort of deconstructing that myth — as far as the photos. I think what we're really creating is this sort of hybrid theatre piece," Domingo shared. "It's not like anything that I've ever done, or Patricia or Bill T. Jones' company as well. So I think it's sort of innovative and we're stepping out on a limb together — something that we're all so passionate about."

Jones, who serves as executive artistic director of New York Live Arts, is working up his magic for the second Live Arts festival (the first, in 2013, centered on Dr. Oliver Sacks). In a press release, the Tony Award-winning choreographer of Spring Awakening and Fela! said: "James Baldwin is a unique and indispensable voice in twentieth-century art and ideas. He continues to shed light on the painful truths of our society, engaging us as almost no other figure does in the intractable conversation at the intersection of class, race, sex and violence. There were other powerful artists and social justice thinkers in his era, but what set James Baldwin apart was his ability to address, in terms at once poetic and visceral, what we can only call 'Americanism.'"

Curated by Lawrence Weschler in conjunction with Jones, other highlights of James Baldwin, This Time! include a preview of Carl Hancock Rux's play Stranger on Earth, featuring vocalist Marcelle Davies Lashley as Dinah Washington; a preview of Passing Strange creator Stew's Harlem-focused Notes of a Native Song; the New York premiere of choreographer Charles O. Anderson's Restless Natives; and the world premiere of choreographer Dianne McIntyre's Time is Time. A free to the public noon-time series discussing Baldwin's impact is slated to include poets Nikki Finney and Yusef Komunyakaa; writers Hilton Als and Darryl Pinckney; actors Jesse L. Martin and André DeShields; musicians Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran; and MacArthur Award winning playwright Parks, who studied with Baldwin at Mount Holyoke in the early 80s and considers him a major influence in her own development.

Domingo concluded: "His language does it all for you. We don't have to put on any thing, All we have to do is step aside. It's more about the language. We really have to just let Jimmy's language sing. And right there that's the character, that's the personality, that's the thought."